‘Ian Fleming’: James Bond’s creator was author, philanderer, spy
In his detailed biography “Ian Fleming,” Andrew Lycett amply demonstrates Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, lived a life just about as dashing and scandalous as his fictional creation.
Special to The Seattle Times
by Andrew Lycett
St. Martin’s Press, 512 pp., $29.99
“The name’s Bond, James Bond.” That line is one of the most memorable movie introductions, uttered by multiple actors playing the same indelible character. But James Bond began as the literary creation of writer Ian Fleming, who himself enjoyed a life as remarkable as his famous protagonist.
Andrew Lycett’s 500-page “Ian Fleming” is the most detailed biography of the writer yet, and certainly the best. This book first came out in England in 1995 but is only now being published in the U.S. It is also the subject of a movie set to come out within a year.
The film could rival the on-screen antics of Sean Connery. Fleming was a spy working for British Naval Intelligence during World War II, and he played a major role in some of the most important subterfuge actions of the war. Lycett’s book is best on these early life details, and his tome is nearly half over before Fleming publishes his first Bond novel.
But it is Fleming’s glamorous, and often scandalous private life that will most resonate with readers. If you think James Bond operates well undercover, consider that Fleming carried on a long affair with a married woman, Ann, and often went to parties attended by his lover and her husband. He later married her.
Fleming wrote “Casino Royale,” the first Bond novel, to calm his nerves. He seeded it with many real-life events he had witnessed. The first press run was only 4,000. It was an immediate hit, and countless reprints followed.
The initial review in the “Daily Telegraph” of that debut cut to the core of the writer’s mark: “Fleming has discovered the secret of narrative art which is to work up to a climax unrevealed at the end of each chapter.” The formula proved perfect for cinema, and for mass-market book sales.
Fleming already had a glamorous life before publishing — Noel Coward was one of his close friends — but he reveled in the glamour his fame brought. He wrote just 12 Bond novels, and they made him fabulously wealthy.
Bond’s famous introduction line in “Casino Royale” is slightly different from the movie version (and a recently discovered first draft of the novel has Fleming actually calling Bond under the code name “Secretan.”) In the novel as published, though, it reads, “Mine’s Bond, James Bond.”
Maybe nobody lives forever, but “Bond, James Bond,” may end up the exception.
Seattle author Charles R. Cross is the author of biographies of Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain.